Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill C-228, an act to amend the Fisheries Act in regards to closed containment of finfish aquaculture and provide my thoughts, my comments, and my background on a few points on the bill.
I appreciate the efforts the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam has made on behalf of wild salmon over a number of years. However, he is not the only one in the House who has taken up helping wild salmon. This member has also been working for wild salmon for nearly 20 years. I am guessing there are members of the House from Atlantic Canada who have also put in some time on behalf of wild salmon on that side of the country.
I have had the privilege of being an active conservationist in streams, lakes, and rivers, where we could go today and see the ongoing benefits of the work done. Just before I returned to this fall sitting of Parliament, I spent some time working with DFO staff, first nations members, and conservation club members, some of whom had travelled from distant communities. We spent some time in hip waders and gum boots, slugging through muck and silt to the mouth of the Salmon River. There we worked with burlap fencing, sandbags, shovels, and sweat to rechannel the lower portion of the river into a singular channel that would be deep enough for migrating Chinook salmon to reach their spawning grounds.
For years this river delta has been filling in with silt to a point that it spread out in multiple small fingers, none of them deep enough for the fish to leave the lake and continue the last few miles to their spawning beds. These fish, nearing the end of a spawning migration of hundreds of miles, had only a few miles to go. Without the blood, sweat and blisters of the DFO staff, first nations, and volunteers working together, those fish would not have reached their spawning beds and not have been able to complete their mating ritual and produce the next generation of wild salmon.
Now members might wonder how this has relevance to Bill C-228, which speaks to salmon aquaculture. Well the silt that had filled in the Salmon River Delta is allegedly from years of logging and farming practices along the river's course. Although these practices may be the cause of the siltation and restricting the ability of salmon to access their historic spawning channels, government is not planning to shut down or remove the farmers and loggers from their ability to continue to farm or harvest timber.
What is being done instead is that farming and logging practices are being improved. Farmers are being encouraged to build exclusion fencing to keep livestock out of the river. They are being encouraged to replant riparian areas and stabilize stream banks so that not only do the salmon benefit but the farmers benefit when they do not lose more land being washed downstream during next year's spring freshet.
Through collaborative efforts, changes are being made. Farming and other activities that drive our economy are able to continue so people have jobs and jobs pay taxes, and taxes pay for schools and hospitals. That is why it is relevant.
Bill C-228 would force government and aquaculture farmers to completely move or change their current practices. Bill C-228 would force government to compensate these fish farmers for their losses and provide employment insurance for displaced workers.
Rather than provide incentives and encourage improvement in practices, Bill C-228 would virtually eliminate a viable, job-creating, revenue-generating farming sector right out of the province and probably right out of the country. Representatives of the salmon farming sector have indicated that the expense of moving and changing their operations to closed containment would leave them little option. Increased operating costs would necessitate that they reduce their costs, especially transportation of goods to market. This would mean industry would move to markets in the U.S., in New York, Los Angeles and overseas to Asia, virtually destroying jobs and income in Canada.
While there are risks and possible causes for wild salmon decline, I believe those risks are better managed or mitigated through collaborative programs where fishermen, farmers, and industry can work together to improve situations that may be impacting our wild salmon.
Another point I would like to touch on in this bill is that it only refers to salmon aquaculture in Canadian waters off the Pacific coast. I wonder what our Atlantic colleagues in the House would have to say about the implications of Bill C-228 expanding to the Atlantic coast. I find it interesting that we have heard little from those Atlantic members on this. I wonder if they are even paying attention.
Within 18 months...prepare, table in Parliament and implement a plan for transition to the use of closed containment facilities setting out, among other things, specific support measures for corporations and workers in the finfish aquaculture sector affected by this transition in order to protect the jobs and financial security of those workers, including training and income support through the employment insurance system.
While I believe we need to support workers who may have lost their jobs through reasons beyond their control, I do not believe we should pass a bill that would, for a start, kill jobs, that would drive revenue-generating business out of Canada, and then have taxpayers compensate those businesses and workers that are impacted. Bill C-228 says nothing about the continued viability of the businesses or the long-term stability of the remote communities they support.
I recognize the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam for his efforts for wild salmon, but the proposals of Bill C-228 are under-developed and under-defined. They seek to tear down the barn before a new barn can be built. While there is a chance this bill could see amendment at the committee stage, that cannot be assured.
I recognize that there are concerns and issues with our wild salmon on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and that these issues need to be addressed and managed. However, Bill C-228 would fail to promote co-operation of employees, commerce, and government for the improvement of operations on a collaborative basis. Bill C-228 would fail to consider the practicalities of the transition and adaptation of a sector that provides 6,000 long-term jobs, many of which are in our coastal communities. Bill C-228 would add to the tax burden borne by hard-working Canadians.
While I have expressed my own commitment and concern for wild salmon and admit that there is much to be learned, the issues I have just listed prevent me from supporting Bill C-228. What I could support is a collaborative approach to the issues and a collaborative plan to manage our wild salmon and our aquaculture sector.